doubt can move us forward

Only very occasionally lately have I been given the chance to look out over a congregation from behind a pulpit.

Only very occasionally lately have I been given the chance to look out over a congregation from behind a pulpit.

Decades ago an ecumenical job in Manitoba with the Inter-Church Committee for World Development Education fairly regularly thrust that experience on me.

Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Churches there often provided me with opportunities to preach or speak on one aspect or another of a Christian’s responsibilities in our rapidly emerging global community. Over the years I have also been welcomed to the front of Baptist, Unitarian, Mormon and even a Reform Jewish congregation among others.

Pastor David Taeger’s retirement from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Whitehorse last fall and the long process of trying to find a replacement for him lead to their liturgy committee’s kind invitation to me to take to their pulpit last Sunday.

The Gospel reading was from John. The passage, John 20:19-31, recounted the story of the apostle Thomas’ unwillingness to believe his fellow disciples when they told him of their encounter with a risen Jesus. This act labelled poor Thomas. He became for the millennia ‘Doubting Thomas’.

My reflection focused on the positive aspect of doubt. Can doubt be an essential component to growth, spiritual and intellectual? Looking around our world today it is nearly impossible not to doubt the efficacy of our political and economic institutional structures in meeting the challenges confronting us. This doubt can pushed us forward or at times dragged us kicking and screaming towards new ways of thinking and behaving.

Thomas in his eventual meeting with the risen Jesus proclaims, “My Lord and my God.” His doubt opened him ultimately to believing more deeply. But I can’t imagine him or the embryonic community he was part of not continuing to question the path they were beginning on. Doubt must have been a constant companion as they began forging this minor off-shoot Jewish cult into a world religion.

Some of those questions are recorded in the epistles and the Acts of the Apostles. Should the non-Jewish populations of the Roman world who were being drawn in increasing numbers to the egalitarian vision of a just, Christ centred society be required to strictly follow Mosaic Law?

What happens when the parousia, the second coming of Jesus, isn’t to be as imminent as anticipated? Should the model Christian community be one where “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common”? (Acts 4:32)

Doubt should not be confused with disbelief. Questioning is as essential today as in the time of Thomas. A recent paper from the Woodstock Theological Centre of Georgetown University in Washington, DC titled Young Adult Catholics: Believing, Belonging and Serving highlighted this particular group’s healthy questioning.

A break in adhesion to conventional markers of religious identity such as regular church attendance doesn’t mean a loss of faith but rather “that many young Catholics place a higher importance on service to the poor and social justice,” remarked sociologist James Davidson.

Questioning of clerically dependent institutions weakened by scandal and sharply decreasing numbers for traditional priestly vocations may have led them to this stance. How the church responses to this questioning will in large measure determine whether the gap between the institution and the faith community will grow or narrow.

Thomas is thought to have travelled to India in 52 c.e. There were Jewish colonies on the west coast since ancient times. Jewish communities and Christian continue to reside in Kerala today. One hopes that Thomas continued to doubt and that we do too.

Rev. Keltie VanBinsbergen, the long-serving pastor of Whitehorse United Church, has accepted a new charge in the Maritimes. She and her family will be leaving us this May. She will be missed.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste Notes

Sunday, April 26—Third Sunday of Easter. A suggested reading is Luke 24: 35-48.

Sunday, April 26—Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi assassination in 1998 Is remembered. He chaired the Guatemalan Truth Commission which placed primary responsibility on the military for human rights abuses in that country’s long civil war.

Thursday, April 30—Saint James the Great’s martyrdom in 44 c.e is commemorated by Orthodox Christians.

Friday, May 1—International Workers’ Day recalls the struggle for the 8 hour working day and commemorates events in labour history such as the Haymarket Square Massacre in Chicago in 1886.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read